Well. They cancelled our direct flight to London (a Wednesday night? Probably not enough seats sold). Shunted us off to an American partner carrier for a flight to O’Hare (joy) and then Chicago to London. Ah, well….. I grab a couple of bottles of iced tea and stuff them in my carry-on after we are through security, and decide not to stress about it.
At O’Hare, we have to switch terminals, and go through security again. I donate my remaining bottle of tea to one of the staff who, the lady managing my line tells me, loves the stuff, and – as they say in Meet The Robinsons – “Keep Moving Forward”. Bernie and I sit down to dinner as we wait for our flight, and see his sister looking for the gate. Cool – they put us on the same plane as Margy! We had planned to meet up on the Heathrow-to-Athens leg of the trip, but this is even better. We have dinner and wait together. Our plane is an hour late. Ah, well we had plenty of time to make the connection in London, so with a tail wind, we are probably still OK.
At Heathrow, even though we are staying within the same terminal, we are required to go through security again (no, not customs – just airport security, really….). They don’t tell you where your flight is til it is practically starting to board, ever – you have to watch the departure boards and wait for them to post the gate info. They announce it over the loudspeakers once – at final call. The international terminal at Heathrow is three buildings and a train system – if you are in the wrong building when you hear that announcement, you are not going to make your plane.
As we get off the plane from O’Hare, I ask the lady at the gate, and she looks it up on her computer – we are in 5C and our plane leaves from 5A. OK then – off to building A. (It is another hour before that information will appear on the departure board.) In the interim – there is fog in Amsterdam. Our plane is coming from there, and is delayed. When flight info finally posts, they have had to move it to another gate a few doors down.
As we wait, Bernie gets talking to a girl in an Ohio sweatshirt. (While we are in Greece, the Browns will beat the Bengals and Pittsburgh will lose a game, bringing the Browns to the top of their Division. She is not a football fan and does not know any of this). She turns out to be Margy’s tour-group-assigned roommate, Jessica. It’s like we are putting together our own little party as we travel….
We will be two hours late to Athens. Our arrival is past the time the tour company has set as the latest limit for our prearranged ground transport, so we are not sure whether we will be taking a cab – but at least if we are, we can all go together. When we exit customs in Athens, the lady with the “Apostolos Greek Tours” sign is still there – they have monitored our flight delay and are waiting. Awesome.
The four of us, in two cars, are transported to the Herodion hotel (named for the Odeon – theater – of Herodes Atticus, which we will see later in our trip). Checkin is seamless, the rooms are “small but comfortable” by American standards – exactly as we should expect – and the hospitality is excellent.
We flew British Air, so they actually fed us decently on the four-hour flight from London. It’s reasonably late, nobody is hungry – we scatter like quail, get settled in our rooms, and go to sleep!
Nothing has gone right today – every flight has been delayed, changed, canceled, or otherwise screwed up – but nothing has gone wrong. Every connection made, each change has yielded a benefit. My normal efficiency-OCD is in the ‘off’ position once we set out for Greece. For the first four days, we are in the hands of Apostolos Greek Tours, who handle the Jeff Galloway marathon package. For the rest of the time we are in the hands of the folks at “Greece Taxi” (aka Greece Private), the folks I have contracted with for our out-of-Athens time. The major details are taken care of – the minor ones don’t matter. As long as Bernie gets to his race, it’s all good.
Oh yeah – the race. The whole reason for coming to Athens. You see, when my husband and brother decided to start running marathons, I told Bernie after his first one, that if he felt the need to do it again, I’d take him to run the Marathon. Lovers of history that we are, the thought was filled with Moment. Bernie, especially, loves ancient history, and is knowledgeable about the Greco-Persian and Peloponnesian wars. The Battle of Marathon featured the largest army assembled in the history of man (to that point), with the future of western civilization in the balance: the win proved Athens’ burgeoning democratic government could pick competent leaders. A loss would have left them Persian slaves and changed history for all of us.
The legend of Pheidippides (aka Philippides) running from the plains of Marathon after the battle to warn the Athenians and to advise them of the victory is too good to resist. Pheidippides, poor bloke, overworked himself a bit, fighting in heavy armor in the Greek summer sun and then running – either 25 miles around, or fewer but harder miles over the hills – to Athens. He was barely able to advise them of the victory before his heart gave out and he fell dead at the city fathers’ feet. “Nenikikamen!” – “We are victorious!” – he is supposed to have said as he died.
Things haven’t gone exactly according to plan, but we are here, and Bernie is going to run in the footsteps of Pheidippides.